LEXINGTON, Kentucky (August 30, 2022) — As Black Breastfeeding Week is celebrated across the United States from August 25-31, researchers from the University of Kentucky shed light on research and advocacy initiatives supporting Black mothers’ choices to initiate and continue breast feeding. feeding with milk.
The university’s SPEAK (Support Peers for Breastfeeding Expansion among African American Kentuckians) project was designed by Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D., professor of counseling psychology at the UK College of Education. Department of Educational, School and Guidance Psychology and UK Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Research.
Stevens-Watkins leads the SPEAK team not only collecting data through interviews with Black mothers, but also creating research-based outreach programs to help counter inequitable access to support and resources. and the medical racism that black mothers may encounter.
In one of their latest projects, researchers from the SPEAK team have received funding from the UK Center for Health Equity Transformation conduct interviews with Black mothers about how their interactions with health systems facilitated or hindered their initiation and continuation of breastfeeding. The results of the interviews appear in the log, “Social health care determinants of black women’s breastfeeding: a multigenerational studypublished in the August 2022 issue of the journal Breastfeeding Medicine. In addition to Stevens-Watkins, the article is written by UK College of Education professors and academics Candice N. Hargons, Ph.D., Jardin Dogan, Ph.D., Natalie Malone, Jasmine K Jester and Shemeka Thorpe , Ph.D., and in collaboration with Ana Maria Linares, DNS, Associate Professor at the UK College of Nursing.
Other initiatives led by the SPEAK team include an exploration of breastfeeding messages and myths within Black communities. The team strives to help counter messages that may discourage breastfeeding.
“Friends and family often influence breastfeeding decisions in the African-American community,” Stevens-Watkins said. “It’s not uncommon for new mothers to hear discouraging messages and myths. By recruiting women from different age groups to discuss with our project team, we hope to gain an understanding of the generational and cultural messages that women share and how these messages influence women’s choices to initiate and continue breastfeeding. .
The SPEAK team trains lay members of the community to become breastfeeding peer support counsellors. These people, called “community transformers,” became a support team to provide encouragement and resources to mothers. They recently shared their supportive efforts on LEX18 News.
Stevens-Watkins conducts research on health disparities covering a range of health conditions and their disproportionate impact on black people. After a personal experience with a lack of breastfeeding support, she went through the process to become a Certified Lactation Consultant. She is now one of only six African American women to become certified lactation counselors in Kentucky in recent years.
“In Kentucky, breastfeeding rates among Black mothers are miserably low. We hope to increase rates not only by collecting data on the messages mothers may receive from family members and the medical community, but also using this information to provide support in the journey of motherhood.As academic researchers at a land-grant institution, it is important that we focus on research that we can use to support our communities and make a difference .